Bienvenue! In preparation for the quickly approaching inaugural Disneyland Paris Princess Half Marathon Weekend, I thought I would kick-off a new series on Bastille Day! My Guide to Americans in Disneyland Paris will share tidbits I picked up on my last trip to this French resort and will be a primer for newcomers. To start at the beginning, I thought I would highlight items that stood out to me as a Walt Disney World/Disneyland regular. As I have said before, the differences found at each Disney Park are not good or bad, yet simply magic of a different color.
8 Things Americans Will NOT Find in Disneyland Paris
1. Disney’s Magical Express
Orlando vacationers have become used to (and love) this free shuttle service from Orlando International Airport to Walt Disney World Resort. Not having to worry about gathering your luggage from the baggage carousel or navigating the 30-minute drive to your hotel is certainly a dream come true. Though you won’t find this service at Disneyland Resort either, it sure would be a welcome addition to the Disneyland Paris experience. There, your choices of transportation are:
– Magic Shuttle (Not a Disney-owned company)
Roundtrip coach bus service from Paris-Charles de Gaulle or Orly Airports will cost approximately 36 Euro.
– TGV high-speed train between CDG Airport Terminal 2 and Disneyland Paris takes about 12 minutes and tickets start at 18 Euro for a one-way, second-class trip.
– RER trains will require a transfer in Paris proper, take approximately 90 minutes, and start at 17 Euro for a one-way trip. Watch those strikes!
** Be aware, that if you lug giant, multiple suitcases (like I always do) there is a significant outdoor walk from Marne-la-Vallee /Chessy station to your on-site hotel. The Disneyland Hotel Paris is the closest and Disney’s Newport Bay Club the farthest. If the weather is not ideal, (and as I describe later, often it is not) it may be a chore.
|Disney’s Sequoia Lodge|
2. Pixie Dusted Hotels
I’ve been fortunate to have stayed at all three Disneyland Resort hotels, and 90% of those at Walt Disney World Resort. However, the hotels at Disneyland Paris are… different. (Read Disneyland Hotel Paris | An American’s Review.) Granted, a couple of the hotels have undergone refurbishment since I was there last. In general, they appeared worn and not as “sparkly” as what we in the US are used to.
The Cast Members are a bit more reserved, the rooms lacking attention to detail (when we stayed at Disney’s Sequoia Lodge last, there was a hole- literally a hole I could put my finger through- to the outside!), and overall, lacked that reliable pixie dust. There are seven Disney Hotels on-property, ranging from “five-keys” of quality to zero-keys, and priced commensurately. Be aware, the nightly prices include park tickets and breakfast, but one night at Disneyland Paris Hotel with a Classic Room starts at $1,424. By contrast, a one-night package with tickets at its Walt Disney World Resort cousin- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa- will cost $638. I think the numbers speak for themselves! Nearby, you can find eight less expensive Partner Hotels, but unlike Disneyland Resort, these off-property hotels are not in walking distance of the parks.
Americans in Disneyland Paris will not find FastPass+ nor MagicBands, but you will find a FASTPASS system similar to that of Disneyland Resort. Unlike the USA parks, there are two extra tiers of tickets:
– Disney Hotel FASTPASS
One given for each day of their stay to each Guest staying in a Classic or Deluxe Room at Disneyland Hotel Paris, and Club Rooms at Disney’s Hotel New York, Disney’s Newport Bay Club, and Disney’s Sequoia Lodge. (Not valid between the hours of 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm.)
– VIP FASTPASS
Unlimited access to all FASTPASS queues for Guests staying in suites and the Castle Club at Disneyland Hotel Paris, Disney’s Hotel New York, Disney’s Newport Bay Club, and Disney’s Sequoia Lodge.
|Restaurant Agrabah Cafe|
4. Fine French Dining?
This was possibly the most disappointing part of our 12-day trip to Disneyland Paris. Unfortunately, I would not have had such high expectations had I been warned. I will not let you suffer a similar fate! Though we dined at every table-service restaurant in both parks, and resort hotels- we had but one standout meal. (Walt’s- an American Restaurant) Most meals ranged from fair to good, and many of the menus seemed limited in scope. As you may have heard, alcohol is served at both parks. So perhaps you will not mind a lackluster dinner or two.
5. An Expansive Downtown Disney Area
While there can be no comparisons made to the new Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort, most Disney Parks fans in the US have certain expectations. They have come to expect a shopping, dining, recreation and entertainment area that supplements their experience outside the parks. Disney Village is a smaller-scale region that hosts the Rainforest Cafe, Starbucks, and Earl of Sandwich, along with American favorites such as McDonald’s and Planet Hollywood. Cafe Mickey is also located here. You will find a cinema and “PanoraMagique” (same operator as Characters in Flight) and the requisite Disney Store! If you are staying at any of the on-property hotels (with the exception of Disneyland Hotel Paris and Disney’s Davy Crockett Ranch), you will need to walk through Disney Village on your way to Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park. Additionally, expect security delays…
6. Extra Magic Hours at Night
Guests staying at a Disney Hotel will be permitted up to two-hour early access into designated parks on assigned days. There are no evening Magic Hours at Disneyland Paris. In fact, if you are traveling in the off-season, you may find very abbreviated operating hours. For Americans in Disneyland Paris, this is certainly not what we have become accustomed to in the states. (During our June stay, both parks regularly closed at 6:00 pm, which prevented us from appreciating the evening lights and setting.)
|Disney’s Hotel New York Ice Skating Rink on “Rockefeller Plaza”|
7. Magical Weather
Far from the subtropical zones of California and Florida, Paris weather can be persnickety. In fact, other regions of Europe were considered for EuroDisney’s location for exactly this reason. The temperate climate found in Disneyland Paris can be unpredictable, so be prepared for a wide range of weather factors. Including snow. During that same June visit, the skating rink at Disney’s Hotel New York was still open for business. I don’t believe I took my thick coat off once during those twelve summer days! If you are running the Disneyland Paris Half Marathon, the expected low temperature is 55 degrees and the average high temperature 70 degrees. American runners in Disneyland Paris will consider this temperate climate ideal for racing!
8. Enforced Smoking Areas
Though I am encouraged to encounter less and less smoking every time I visit Europe, expect to find a significant amount of smoking in Disneyland Paris proper. And not necessarily in the designated smoking areas. This is a cultural difference that Americans will just have to get used to. For now.
Vive la difference!! I don’t intend to be overly critical, but I do feel that forewarned is forearmed. Americans in Disneyland Paris need to manage their magical expectations. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised by the true beauty and wonder of our European cousin. My return to run through Le Chateau de la Belle au Bois Dormant will be un reve!!